Ben Blackthorne, the bastard son of an English aristocrat and former lieutenant in His Majesty's Army, is in self-imposed exile in Paris in 1803 when war breaks out once again between England and the old enemy France, a country more and more under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte. Ben is not overly concerned about this, until a fellow military man entrusts him with a packet of paper that has to be taken to England. With the help of Royalists, a beautiful woman called Dominique, and those who just don't like Bonaparte, he is smuggled out of France back to safety in England where he delivers the papers and thinks that is an end to the matter. However, the pull of Dominique is too much and against his better judgement, Ben decides to go back into the lion's den.
Ben is an arresting character; we watch him develop and grow into himself, a hero-in-training, not the finished article, but close to it by the time we leave him. He is filled with self-doubts and a huge black cloud looms large over him, but he finds a way to dispel that as he also finds a use for himself.
Dominique is not a typical female lead, not at all soft or useless; strong, powerful, independent, very modern and real. You have to like her.
To nit-pick - and with books this good you desperately want them to be perfect - the denouement is possibly a bit rushed and lacks the emotional power of other passages. Otherwise the plot works, the structure of the story is good, the characters well drawn and compelling, and the style is wonderful.
© Nicky Galliers
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